While hunting for blog ideas the other day, I dropped into Bloomberg with my pickax and sifting screen and, as I generally do there, hit pay dirt.
The article that caught my attention was about a young financial services guy – he’s the managing director of a fund management firm in Singapore – who’s got quite an interesting sideline. Cliff Hartono is a fossil collector and dealer who sells his wares via his gallery, Set In Stone.
Hartono has created a new niche market in fossils as art and chic home decor. His haul—including a fossilized marine reptile, a Jurassic-age ichthyosaur, that he sold for about S$200,000 ($140,000)—ranges in age from 20 million to 230 million years. (Source: Blooomberg)
Home décor is much on my mind these days, as I will soon be moving back into my reno’d digs. What’s going on the walls is what has always been on the walls, with a few newly framed editions and some items moving from Point A to Point B. I have some pretty interesting stuff, ranging from a late 1800’s circus-type poster, to works by my sister-in-law, to art created in the St. Francis House art room, to old mirrors, to a couple of watercolors a friend of my mother gave her as an engagement present, to things picked up on my travels, to a beautifully framed poster featuring the three-deckers of Worcester, to a crewel work piece of a vase filled with Japanese lanterns (done by my mother). I’m chuckling about this last piece, because my sister Trish came across an exact replica of it recently in the ladies room of a restaurant in Western Mass. (I trust that mine is still packed up and ready to be hung once everything is done chez moi.)
I also have a lot of decorative pieces: vases and bowls, vases and bowls, wooden frogs, vases and bowls, brick-a-brack picked up along the way, an empty gallon jug from Worcester’s long-defunct Parson’s Cider Mill…
What I don’t have is any fossil art, but, wow, is some of it gorgeous. As in this piece, a palm frond from back in the day Wyoming (roughly 50 million years back in the day).
And, I suspect, spectacularly out of my price range. (You have to ask.)
While, as I wrote just yesterday, I don’t get why anyone would pay $2K for a pair of Kanye Yeezy sneakers, I do get why someone would pay plenty for something like this. After all, unlike sneakers – Yeezy or otherwise – they’re not making any more 50 million year old palm frond fossils. Sure, they may unearth more. But they sure aren’t making any.
Hartono isn’t the only one getting in on the act.
There’s a gallery in Hong Kong that’s got a triceratops skull on sale. Asking price, $1.8M.
Years ago, I had a stuffed triceratops that I used as an accent pillow. Other than that, and picking up the odd sand-dollar on the beach and keeping it around until it turns to dust, that’s about as close as I’ve gotten to fossil art.
But there is something so wonderful (as in makes you full of wonder) about the idea of possessing something this ancient – unless, I guess, you’re Ben Carson.
I know, I know. These fossils – like the most valuable man-made works of art - would be better off in museums where everyone could see them. Or in university labs where scientists could study - and grad students could make a PhD thesis out of – them.
Hartono says commercial diggers can afford excavation projects that museums and universities can’t, spurring new discoveries. “Undiscovered fossils will just crumble to dust,” he says.
Kind of like my discovered fossil sand dollars.
Anyway, I have plenty enough junk sitting around in boxes, waiting to see the light of day once I unpack all those boxes.
Still, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know about fossil backsplashes and the like when I was picking out my tiles. Might have blown a major hole in my budget.
So I’ll end with my delight at the beauty of fossil art, and at the thought of a fund manager who went digging around for it.